bird’s eye chilli. Photo courtesy.
Abdulahi Omar Sheikh, a Tana River County farmer who abandoned vegetable, onion and tomato farming last year to venture into bird’s eye and bullet chillies is now producing 30 tonnes of the crop a season something which is pushing him to look for contactors to produce more owing to a guaranteed market.
Until April last year, Omar was growing vegetables, onions and tomatoes in his 10 acres of land near Odha Town and sell to traders in Kongowea Market in Mombasa. However, due to importation of the produce by Kenyan traders from Tanzania and Uganda affecting local prices, he opted to grow chillies to keep his venture alive.
“Cheap produce from the neighboring countries have really affected our local markets. Especially for tomato farmers from this area who have to look for better markets distance away end up making huge losses and get discouraged,” said Omar.
He used to harvest over 250 boxes of tomatoes and hire a lorry to transport it to Kongowea Market which according to him is 240km away from Tana River. He could sell it at Sh20 a kilo and the money realised could not cater for all his bills and leave him with at least a profit.
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Tired of fluctuating market price, Omar did a short research about chilli production and marketing something which enabled him identify some chilli exporters besides learning some export requirements for chilli.
“During my research I happened to meet some exporters in Nairobi who advised me on the production of the crop for both local and international markets,” he said.
He therefore moved on to spend over Sh600,000 capital to hire land, buy 250g bird’s eye chilli seeds worth Sh25,000 and Sh6000 to buy the same measure of bullet chilli seeds. He also spends between Sh4,000-6,000 every week on generator water pump fuel.
Irrigation though he says is expensive, enables him produce chilli all year round elevating his potential of producing over 30 tonnes of the crop per season.
“All I am lacking currently to match big chilli producers in the country are contractors who can help me through production process and assure me of a guaranteed market,” said Omar.
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Currently he can harvest up to five tonnes a day on order. He sells a kilo at between Sh60-80 during peak periods and at between Sh30-40 when the market is flooded to traders who sell it locally and exporters.
According to National Farmers Informational Service (NAFIS), coastal region where Tana River County is situated has a high potential for chili production.
“Owing to the expected high returns, the chilies will be among the leading cash crops in the region,” read a statement in an article published by NAFIS.
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Some of the big buyers of the crop is Equator Products Limited which is already entering into contract farming with willing farmers.
Equator products is offering a guaranteed price of Sh60 per kilo of fresh chilies to contracted farmers.
From half an acre, a farmer can make a profit of about Sh140,000 from an investment cost of Sh85,000, according to NAFIS.
Omar can be reached on +254 722 710 501